Mr. Speaker, from the outset I would like to let you know that I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Hochelaga.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to speak today on this budget and on the NDP amendment. So many times in the House we have seen the movement of closure and time allocation, so I have not been able to speak on all of the motions and bills before the House, and I am very grateful that I have this opportunity today.
In an age of growing inequality, it seems that the Conservatives just want to help accelerate it. In Scarborough, my office hears about the need for jobs, the need for affordable and reliable transit, and the need for fairer immigration policies, among many other issues. Across Canada, communities are struggling to cope with major job losses.
In Scarborough, we are a fast-growing community. In 2011, there were about 616,000 people living in Scarborough. As an area, our average household income is below the provincial average, and so is per capita income. There are many people struggling to make ends meet in our community. We have many small and medium-sized businesses that are the real job creators. We have been waiting for a budget that meets our needs and priorities, but frankly, this is not the budget we need.
Canada's economy is not strong without a strong middle class, and Scarborough is home to many in the middle class. From this budget, it is clear that the Conservatives either do not understand the realities of middle-class Canadians or just do not care. Instead of taking action to help Canadians get ahead, the Conservatives are stubbornly pushing their schemes that would help only the richest 15% of Canadians.
The Conservatives simply do not understand the priorities of Scarborough and the priorities of Toronto. This region has lost hundreds of thousands of good manufacturing jobs, yet the Conservatives have offered the bare minimum of support for manufacturing and have failed to build a balanced economy. Toronto alone has lost 24,600 jobs in the last six months and nearly 100,000 manufacturing jobs since the Prime Minister took office. The Conservatives have failed to build a balanced economy that works for our city.
Looking at the budget, it is clear that it would not address our city's looming affordable housing crisis either. It would fail to extend funding for social housing. The $150 million in the budget would not address the scope of the challenges facing our cities. Right now, there are 167,022 people on the City of Toronto's affordable housing wait list. Our city is committed to working on social housing, but it needs federal support to meet this glaring need.
However, something we do see in this budget is the government's income-splitting scheme, which the former finance minister, Mr. Flaherty, strongly opposed. Financial experts have warned that 85% of Canadians would get nothing at all from the Conservatives' income-splitting scheme, yet this is what the government has put forward. This wasteful and unfair policy would take billions from middle-class Canadians, who need the help the most, and hand it over to the richest 15%. This makes no sense at all when one in two Canadians lives paycheque to paycheque and countless others work full time but still fall below the poverty line.
For ten long years of the Conservative government, we have seen billions dumped into tax giveaways to the largest corporations and tax loopholes for CEO salaries. With rising inflation rates and storm clouds looming for our economy, most of us would not benefit from this income-splitting scheme, which is really there just for the wealthy few, or from the doubling of the TFSA limit, or from the tax loopholes for CEOs. These would not benefit most Canadians.
Where are the measures in this budget that support middle-class Canadians? We know that people are going to need strong supports if this storm materializes and our economy faces a further downturn.
We could benefit from closing the tax loopholes to fund the recent commitment to eliminate child poverty. My motion to eliminate child poverty was supported almost unanimously here in the House, but we do not really see any measures in this budget that work toward that goal.
Unfortunately, this budget continues the $700-million loophole for CEOs to avoid paying taxes on stock options, forcing ordinary Canadians to pay more.
We could provide a helping hand for parents looking for child care, return the retirement age to 65 from 67 for Canadian seniors, and create a $15 minimum wage so that people have more money in their pockets and support they can rely on.
I must mention some of the victories, which are measures that are actually good in this budget. I am pleased to see that NDP proposals, which the Conservative government voted down in the House already, have now, of course, shown up in the budget. These are measures such as decreasing taxes on small businesses, increasing the time working Canadians dedicate to caring for their ill loved ones, stimulus for investment in manufacturing, and extending basic workplace protections for interns. I am also glad to see the government act on the NDP proposal to extend the accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturing investments and new equipment.
It is great that any of the positive measures in this budget are really all NDP proposals. This demonstrates to Canadians that clearly we are ready to be the government and should just write the entire budget next time around.
Small businesses have watched their tax rate drop 1% since the Conservatives took office, to 11% from 12%, while watching the corporate tax rate drop 7%, from 22% to now 15%, which included a now defunct surtax, over the same period. This budget proposes to drop the small business tax rate by 2% by 2019, which is exactly what the NDP had proposed, but the Conservative government voted against it. It would bring the tax rate for small and medium-sized enterprises from 11% to 9%. Nevertheless, it is good to see the government adopting another NDP proposal.
We also believe in extending basic workplace protections for interns, and I commend the government for supporting this NDP initiative also. Again, I wonder why the government just recently voted down the same measures in my New Democrat colleague's private member's bill, but it is what it is.
The Conservatives have brought forward the NDP proposal for seniors for registered retirement income funds, RRIFs, and have reduced the amount seniors must withdraw from their RRIFs so that they are not forced to deplete dangerous amounts of their savings.
However, the Conservatives have broken their word to seniors on pensions, and this budget shows no sign of their changing course. The current government plans to raise the retirement age for old age security from 65 to 67, and the Conservatives have blocked progress to boost CPP and QPP benefits.
Finally, the budget accepts the long-time NDP proposal on the employment insurance compassionate care benefit that would extend it from six weeks to six months, which will begin in January 2016. I am very happy to see another NDP initiative brought forward in this budget.
However, I would be remiss if I did not mention at this point that access to employment insurance has dropped to historic lows following cuts by the current Conservative government, leaving many Canadians unemployed and unable to get the support they need. Sadly, this budget does nothing to ameliorate that situation.
I also believe that this budget is short-sighted at a time when Canada needs vision. What are we passing on or leaving behind to future generations?
The Conservatives plan to double the annual contribution limit for the tax-free savings account to $10,000. This is another unfair scheme that only helps the rich. Most Canadians can only dream of those kinds of savings. Worse yet, this measure will cost Canadians $20 billion over the next four decades. The response from the Minister of Finance that our grandchildren will deal the problem is simply unacceptable. It is not responsible to burden our grandchildren with this $20-billion problem just because this government wants to create another venue for their wealthy friends to put away more money. I wish the Minister of Finance thought of the vast majority of people living in Toronto who just cannot afford to part with $10,000 every year.
According to one of the new reports from the Metcalf Foundation, authored by one of my constituents, John Stapleton, on the working poor, 63 of Toronto's census tracts show an increase in working poverty rates between 2006 and 2012, while only 14 show a decrease. In 2012, the report noted, there was a major deepening of the incidence of working poverty in census tracts for the northern parts of Toronto, representing a constituency that is only north Scarborough. This is very concerning for me and the constituents I represent.
I would have liked to have had more time to go through more issues, such as gridlock and more instances of poverty. I hope someone will follow up with that in the questions and answers.